Thursday, 31 January 2013

Retro Running Diary: Super Bowl XXXV

Come with me back to January 28, 2001. It's Super Bowl XXXV, played in Tampa, between the Baltimore Ravens and the New York Giants - the last time the Ravens made a Super Bowl. How better to look back on this than with a retro running diary? Let's see how the game unfolded.

Pre-game:

As the 79 captains wander out onto the field for the coin-toss, Greg Gumbel and Phil Simms introduce themselves (what's changed?). Little do they know, their incompetence in the booth will soon be matched by the people they are commentating on - Brian Billick, Tony Siragusa and Trent Dilfer make for a superb Ravens trio.

Singing the national anthem - the Backstreet Boys! I find this exceptionally hilarious, because any player caught listening to them would have been taken out back and beaten.

1st Quarter:

14.50: Kerry Collins alert! The starting quarterback for the Giants, he's coming off five touchdowns against the Minnesota Vikings. Simms tells us that he's "very relaxed and extremely confident" as the cheesy offensive line graphics are displayed on the screen.

14.41: The now "very very confident" Collins' first pass is very nearly picked off by this incredible Ravens defence who have only conceded one offensive touchdown all postseason. 

13.52: Collins' second attempt is also dropped, again by a Raven. Tiki Barber looks on angrily. CBS shows the defensive co-ordinators - John Fox and Marvin Lewis! A nice flashback to the days when Marvin Lewis was good at his job. Gumbel informs us that Kerry has been taking advice from Troy Aikman, I have no idea why.

12.58: Trent Dilfer marches onto the field to a graphic showing his 47% postseason completion percentage. More than enough to win with this defence on his side.

11.30: That's the third three-and-out, and the third punt of the day. CBS proudly show off their "Eyevision" technology, which is surprisingly awesome for something created 12 years ago.

10.45: Dilfer is described as a "game manager" while also being criticised for being terrible at short passes. A long pass goes flying over the head of Patrick Johnson is the end zone after the way-too-white-to-be-a-safety Jason Sehorn gets burned for speed.

9.51: Apparently the Giants are the only team not to concede a defensive touchdown all season, Kerry Collins is determined to change that as he throws another pass into triple coverage. 

9.34: A botched snap results in a mad rush for the ball, Gumbel shows how read-up he is by yelling "It's like a scrum in Australia!!". I'd like to think that in four days time New Zealand gets the scrum shout-out.

8.45: Simms confidently states that Barber's back-up, Joe McGregor, is bigger and faster than Tiki. Which raises the question - why isn't he playing then Phil? Jermaine Lewis returns a punt to the 20 for the Ravens but it's called back for holding, there's nothing worse for a player than when that happens.

6.50: Touchdown Baltimore! Brandon Stokely goes deep, burning off Sehorn and Dilfer throws it straight into his hands. Stokely and Ray Lewis are the only two players still in the league who played in this game.

5.16: CBS pops a stat up onto the screen, 187 tackles in the season for Ray Lewis, which somehow isn't his best season of all time, what a phenomenal player.

2.54: A Jermaine Lewis muffed punt is followed by yet another three-and-out, Dilfer is 2/7 for 42 yards but easily winning the quarterback battle.

1.17: Sehorn gets his ankles broken by Patrick Johnson's basketball-esque crossover, he tries to trip up Johnson as he goes past but Dilfer misses the wide open man.

End of the first quarter: Baltimore 7 New York 0

14.41: The superbly named Bonnie Bernstein gives a report from the sideline, as does Armen Keteyian who lets us know that "The Ravens aren't sleeping down here tonight!" Uh, thanks for that Armen!

13.17: A third down completion! That makes us 1/11 so far.

11.59: "I tell ya Greg, in the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE...."

11.15: Collins does his best Tom Brady impersonation by failing to outrun the 350-pound Sam Adams for the first down.

10.44: A flea-flicker! How desperate can you get? The Giants can't get anything going.

10.37: Interception! Collins' pass is tipped by Lewis, Jamie Sharper grabs it and Kerry looks even more scared than before.

10.27: Trent Dilfer tries to go one better by throwing a pick-six! But it's negated by holding, I was wrong, it can get worse than punt return holding.

10.18: Jamal Lewis (Another Lewis...) picks up the first 10 yard run of the day.

9.00: Cornelius Griffin isn't letting Bonnie Bernstein get the "Most Ridiculous Super Bowl Name" Trophy without a fight! Tiki Barber is miffed at not being nominated.

8.00: Things you never thought you would hear "Marvin Lewis is really out-coaching Sean Payton today". The baby-faced Payton makes it three co-ordinators who are now head coaches, poor Matt Cavanaugh is the odd one out, being the Bears quarterbacks coach.

5.05: Finally, the Giants get into Baltimore territory, Collins celebrates by throwing another dropped interception.

4.51: We get our first glimpse of Michael McCrary, who is disappointed he didn't get to use deer antler spray while he was in the league.

3.14: *Looks up record for most punts in a game*

2.40: Qadry Ismail collects a 40-yard completion, here I was thinking he was the first Somalian ever to play in the NFL - he's born in Pennsylvania.

1.48: A brawl on the sidelines! And when I say brawl, I mean BRAWL, not the "hold me back" fights you see in the NBA.

1.34: Stover slots home a field goal to make it 10-0, a man tries to steal the ball through the mesh behind the goalposts.

1.00: Collins does brilliantly to get into field goal range before throwing a prayer which gets intercepted on the one yard line, that's his second pick of the day and a killer for the Giants.

Halftime: Baltimore 10 New York 0

14.47: Jermaine Lewis returns the kickoff to midfield, only to find out that his teammate was penalised for holding once again.

14.42: Dilfer is putting up a great poor man's Joe Flacco performance so far, seven completions for 108 yards.

12.22: Why are NFL players incapable of holding their own drinks? And how much do people get paid to squirt water into their mouths? Has anyone ever got somebody in the eye? These are all questions which need to be answered.

11.37: Dilfer is down! The scary sight of Tony Banks warms up on the sidelines. (This is the flashback I'll be getting if at any stage Tyrod Taylor looks set to come into the game).

10.12: The Giants finally convert a third down. It only took them 35 minutes, but who am I to judge?

8.58: And it's pick number three for Kerry! It's really a pity that the Bad Quarterback League wasn't around to document this legendary performance.

8.35: Tony Banks is in the game! Re-assuring stats pop up on the screen: Banks has not thrown a touchdown in his last 152 pass attempts.

4.58: Can a punter win the Super Bowl MVP? I mean, it's possible, right?

4.29: CBS confirms - the most punts ever in a Super Bowl! History has been made!

4.23: Trent is back, and back to throwing deep passes out of bounds. The sides are a combined 3/21 on third downs now.

3.58: Pick Six! Collins at his best, he throws it straight to Duane Starks who runs it back 50 yards for the touchdown, 17 to nothing. Collins is now 11/27 for 89 yards and 4 interceptions, this is truly Blaine Gabbert-esque.

3.40: Finally, some action! Ron Dixon returns the kickoff for a touchdown! The Giants think they're back in it! Special teams coach Larry MacDuff is shown fist pumping on the sideline as Simms yells "The game is not over! New life for the Giants!".

3.22: WOW! Jermaine Lewis returns the next kickoff for a touchdown!!! Three touchdowns in 36 seconds!!! Great directing from CBS who cut back to MacDuff not looking so happy now. Unfortunately, McDuff's nickname is not "Suds".

2.33: As CBS confirm that Collins' fourth pick is a Super Bowl record, he tries to break it but the Ravens, feeling sorry for him, drop him for the fifth time. A double-digit interception game could truly have been in play.

End of the third quarter: Baltimore 24 New York 7

14.07: Ravens punter Kyle Richardson pins the Giants in their own fifteen for the fifth time - MVP!

13.53: McCrary (playing now with a fractured right hand - he must have been on some strong drugs) causes Collins to fumble in his end zone, but the Giants recover. Pity QBR wasn't around back then.

12.06: Ben Coates hauls in his third catch of the game after having only nine in the regular season. Which random receiver will step up this time around? Ed Dickson? Tandon Doss?

9.26: The Giants are still talking trash as the Ravens rightly point to the scoreboard. Teams who get blown out have no right to be talking smack in my book.

8.45: Jamal Lewis throws the ball into the end zone as he gets hit on the one yard line, touchdown! The Giants challenge unsuccessfully as Brian Billick's smile gets wider. Speaking of which, why is Jim Harbuagh so angry all the time? Hopefully the football gods smile on the nice coach - John.

8.29: The Giants fumble the kickoff and the Ravens recover. Is this the worst Super Bowl performance in history? It's at least in the top five.

6.07: Lewis brings up 100 rushing yards, as well as a question from me about whether he is historically underrated. It'll be tough for Bernard Pierce and LaMichael James to rush as well as he did in his Super Bowl appearance as a rookie.

5.28: Stover runs further salt into the wound with a field goal to make it 34-7, celebrations begin on the Baltimore sideline.

5.10: Phil and Greg mention for the 379th time that they talked to somebody before the game. Way to do your job guys!

4.57: The Giants in the NFC Championship game: 578 yards, 41 points. The Giants today: 126 yards, 7 points. And that's why the 2000-2001 Ravens are the best defence of all time.

4.10: The Giants throw in the towel by punting again, the Ravens counter by putting in Banks, becuase, you know, don't want Dilfer to get hurt for that next match in eight months time....

1.44: A travesty for the ages! Ray Lewis is named MVP instead of Kyle Richardson. Hopefully Sam Koch can exact revenge for the punting community by being named MVP if the Ravens win on Monday.

0.22: Such a fitting way to end the game, a sixth dropped pick thrown by Kerry Collins, this is truly the holy grail of terrible Super Bowl performances.

Full Time: Baltimore 34 New York 7

It's such a rout that there's little pandemonium on the field, Billick somehow avoids the Gatorade shower as the Giants sit glumly on the sideline. Can the Ravens repeat the scenes from Tampa 12 years later in New Orleans? Will Joe Flacco surpass Trent Dilfer? Will there be punting? Can Ray Lewis' bionic arm knock somebody unconscious? I can't wait to find out.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Back on track: Week 3 of Golf Tipping

Skinny Dynamite is back! 

Well, kinda.

While the familiar chant of "winner winner chicken dinner" hasn't quite been achieved yet, last week was a good one for his tips, with Jimmy Walker ($66) and George Coetzee ($33) both finishing tied for second.

And it could have been so much better too, if not for bloody Nick Watney, who's birdie on the last pushed Rickie Fowler and (my longshot) Aaron Baddeley out of the money. 

As predicted, I had about five tips come in the top 20 without a single place, the best advice would be to stick to following my NFL tips at this point in time while loading onto SD's tips, which for years have always come out profitable.

Anyways, we will look to build on the promising last week out with more tips - lets start with the tournament with the worst sponsor name of all time - the Waste Management Phoenix Open. My tips are so putrid that they could be sponsored by Waste Management, but I digress. (Waste Management, contact me!)

Kyle Stanley is the defending champ, and he is available at up to $150 at some places, which seems quite ridiculous, Ben Crane was the runner-up, they could definitely come out on top - I picked them both last week! 

Waste Management Phoenix Open Tips:

SD:

Hunter Mahan $35
Jason Day $40
Keegan Bradley $40
Jimmy Walker $69
Josh Teater $85
KJ Choi $85

All 1 ew

Some quite impressive names there, Mahan is a former winner at this course, while Bradley and Day obviously have high pedigrees. Walker and Teater are both in great form, while Choi is one I like too, except he'll be the one of the shortest-priced player I'm taking

Me:

Kevin Na $80
KJ Choi $85
Bryce Molder $107
Brendan Steele $107

All 1ew

William McGirt $200
Chris Stroud $250

1/2 ew

I was thinking going all-Asian and backing Charlie Wi, Ryo Ishikawa and the likes but Bryce Molder was just far too enticing, he's my tip of the week.

Onto the second tournament, and we're back in the Middle East for the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. A big tournament where form and hitting greens come into play, the defending champion is (wait for it...) Cabrera-Bello! Yet another player who I backed last week (I'm terrible at this). But he's still getting backing from Skinny it seems....

Spaniards have won the last three titles here, Sergio is the favourite at 6-1, which is incredibly awful value considering Tiger was at 8-1 last week at his favourite course, with Westwood also coming in at single digits.

Omega Dubai Desert Classic Tips:

SD:

Thorbjorn Olesen $23

2 ew (!!!)

Paul Casey $28
Rafael Cabrera-Mellow $28
Victor Dubuisson $66
Fred Hed $150

1 ew

Some old favourites in amongst there, with huge backing for Olesen at 23's. I remember the days when I was madly backing him at 300's, never again will I get that opportunity.

Me:

Alex Noren $38
Bernd Weisberger $54
Stephen Gallacher $75
Robert Rock $118

All 1 ew

Edoardo Molinari $150
Felipe Aguilar $150

So there we have it, make sure to tune in over the next few days for a special Super Bowl preview and a retro look back at the last time the Ravens made it this far, I promise that it's a higher standard than my golf tips.

Good luck.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

All Star Snubs and Snobs


It really annoys me that the All-Star game holds significant importance. The spectacle itself is always terrible to watch, yet is extremely crucial in looking back at players’ legacies. Because of this, there are always debates on who should or should not make the All-Star team, and with the fans voting, things can get shambolic.

Since roughly 80% of NBA fans are idiots, there are always things wrong with those players selected to start. Thankfully, coaches pick the reserves, but even they can make questionable decisions. So, who should have made the All-Star game? Let’s have a look at some of the snubs.

Brook Lopez

Lopez was left off the team in favour of guys like Chris Bosh, Tyson Chandler and (thanks to the fans) Kevin Garnett. An argument can be made that he should have made it ahead of them all. Certainly selecting Bosh over Lopez is the glaring mistake. Both players have been criticised for their rebounding, but Lopez offers more both defensively and offensively. While Bosh is being played out of position in Miami, Lopez impacts the Nets’ defence to a huge degree. Playing alongside an undersized hustle rebounder in Reggie Evans, Lopez is regularly called upon to challenge shots at the rim, while Evans cleans up on the glass. This has led to an impressive amount of blocks per game (2.1), as well as the Nets being the worst defensive team in the league when Lopez sits.

On offence, it’s even more clear cut. Lopez has the highest PER of any centre, whilst being the main offensive guy on his team, while Bosh is regularly left open as teams double LeBron and Wade.

Of course, Anderson Varejao should have made it over all of these guys, but his unfortunate injury meant he missed out once again. It would have been pretty funny to have had two Cavs on the all-Star team when their franchise has won 12 games this season, but it was not to be.

Chandler is a strange case. He is definitely not having as good a season as he did last year (when he didn’t get the All-Star nod), yet he gets voted in this time around. (Sidenote: DeAndre Jordan should really start to model his game on Tyson Chandler if he ever wants to progress in this league). Still, with Chandler, KG and Noah, along with lockdown wings LeBron and George, maybe the All-Star game will finally end in a scoreline other than 149-141.

Marc Gasol

Marc’s stunning omission has flown under the radar a bit I feel. One of the top candidates for Defensive Player of the Year, Gasol is the anchorman on a fantastic Grizzlies defensive unit. Add to that his solid rebounding (7.5 a game), large amount of blocked shots (nearly two per game) and the fact that he’s the best big man passer in the league, Gasol makes a great case of being the best centre in the league, let alone an All-Star.

Which makes it even more remarkable how he didn’t make it. Ask any Grizzlies fan and I’m sure nearly all of them will say that Gasol is more valuable to the team than his sidekick Zach Randolph, who for all his rebounding is below-par on defense. Gasol can have several legitimate questions as to why he missed out.

Stephen Curry

While I’m stoked to have the first Warrior player selected to the All-Star game since 1997, it’s disappointing that Curry won’t be joining David Lee in Houston this year. Arguably the best shooter in the league, Curry has been electric this season. He’s averaging the most points out of anybody who missed out (21 a game) along with four rebounds and 6.5 assists while shooting a red-hot 45% from the carpark. While it is hard to make a case for him to be selected ahead of Westbrook, Harden and Parker, a wildcard berth was a realistic chance for Curry, who probably should have been selected ahead of LaMarcus Aldridge.

Aldridge has been his usual self this season, good on defence without grabbing a huge amount of ballboards, but his efficiency isn’t anywhere near Curry’s level. I possibly would have even selected Batum over Aldridge, but Aldridge can definitely consider himself lucky to be there.

Hopefully Curry’s ankles hold up to give himself several years of All-Star appearances.

Quick Notes:

Luol Deng’s inclusion surprised many, but there is really nobody who screams out for selection. Picking Paul Pierce would have meant three players from the Celtics (who are currently under .500), while other options such as Joe Johnson are just very meh. Deng can thank the Eastern Conference’s lack of wing depth as the reason he sneaks in.

The coaches did well in selecting Paul George and Jrue Holiday for their first All-Star berths, as well as picking David Lee. As I wrote before, Lee’s season so far has been truly phenomenal, while George and Holiday are very deserving of the trip to Houston.

Finally, popular snubs who shouldn’t have been in the All-Star conversation.

Here are three players, which is most deserving of being in the All-Star debate?

Player A: 16.7 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 2.5 APG, 42% FG, has to be hidden on defence.

Player B: 16.5 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 2.9 APG, 40% FG, 32% 3PT, below-par defender.

Player C: 12.4 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 5.5 APG, 48% FG, league-average defender.

It’s player C right? 

The first two players are Jamal Crawford and JR Smith, supposedly All-Star candidates. The third? Jarrett Jack, who was never mentioned in the All-Star debate, and at this point in time should be the sixth man of the year.

Like skinny jeans, I just don’t get it…..

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Golf Tips: Round 2

"AAAAAARRRRGGGGHHH!!!"

That was the sound made when I woke up to the news that Jamie Donaldson had won in Abu Dhabi. 

Why, you ask?

Because, due to a holiday, the golf tips took a week off last week. No biggie, there'll be weeks where we don't tip, I wasn't too fussed. Until Donaldson won.

I had tipped Donaldson out last week. You know who else won? Brian Gay,  tipped by SD the week before he won. 

Maybe we've hit a winning tactic here. Provide golf tips for the current week, watch as they all finish tied for 20th, then back the same guys next week and bingo - there should be two winners at long odds. Failing that? Hopefully the guys we like this week should be an earner for you.

There are two big tournaments this week, starting with the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. Tiger Woods is back in action on the PGA Tour, suiting up at a place he has won seven times, while it is a local tournament for Phil Mickelson. Guys like Snedeker, Dustin Johnson, Bubba, Bradley and Watney are all playing too, so there are some fine players pushed out to long odds.

In my opinion, these bigger tournaments are tougher to collect in, as the top players usually place at very low prices, meaning the guys we love to take are slightly out-classed. 

Torrey Pines is played on two courses - three rounds on the long South Course, with one round on the easy North Course. Big hitters tend to do well on Torrey Pines, and it usually takes around 12 to 17 under par to win it. With that in mind, here are the picks.


Farmers Insurance Open picks:

SD:

Bubba Watson $16
Rickie Fowler $30
Bo Van Pelt $35
Jimmy Walker $66

All 1ew

Seung-Yul Noh $110
James Hahn $150

1/2 ew


Me:

Bill Haas $43
Kyle Stanley $107
Ben Crane $107
DA Points $113
Aaron Baddeley $117

All 1 ew

Cameron Tringale $159

1/2 ew

As you can tell, I go for a lot more long-shots in these types of tournaments. I'm a little concerned at going a bit too far into 'horses for courses', but that fear is negated by the fact all of my golfers selected are high quality players who also have had big success on other courses. 

Is it just me or are my guys better value than the Noh's and Walker's of the golfing world? Better not trash-talk the guy who's had years of success....

John Rollins is a guy who many are tipping out, his record here is massively impressive, but he's just a tad too short considering his underwhelming resume. And no, Tiger is not value, despite what some are saying. For the record, neither me or SD take anybody under $10's.

On to the second big tournament going on this week, the Commericalbank Qatar Masters. This is probably the tournament where you only want to take SD's tips, as I just get lured in to guys I like at massive prices. 

Commercialbank Qatar Masters picks:

SD:

Jason Dufner $16
George Coetzee $33
Gonzalo Fernandez Castano $40
Victor Dubuisson $70
Scott Jamieson $80
Romain Wattel $100

1 ew

Me:

Rafael Cabrera-Bello $48
Retief Goosen $64
Richie Ramsay $74

1 ew

Pablo Larrazabal $106
Thomas Aiken $158

1/2 ew

I'm sticking to my guns in Europe (RCB is a regular), and although I quite like Goosen I would not advise you to back my tips here. 

However, get onto Skinny's plays and if nothing comes up, there's always the week-after winner syndrome to look forward to.


Before I go, a quick plug, I've nailed my last eight NFL spread picks in these playoffs. Hopefully you've been backing them, I'll make my Super Bowl pick next week and then ride out the off-season (subsequently the school season) with some NBA content and more golf tips.

Good luck with the golf, back next week.

Friday, 18 January 2013

The Championship Picks, Plus Ravens Ravens Ravens.

Welcome back to From The Carpark, I'm back from holiday and raring to go again after my 4/4 showing last week. Sorry about no golf tips (although last week's was a shambles), they won't be a weekly thing but we shall post it as often as we can. Allow me to blow my own trumpet for a second, considering I probably won't go 4/4 for a while, as I also warned you away from backing the under. All in all, it was just a great football week, consider this - the most boring game of the four had 69 points scored in it! 

And yes, I'm still hyped up from the Ravens win, I did not stand up for 5 hours, possibly the best sporting event I've ever witnessed. Flacco to Jones, the pick, Justin Tucker... I could write a 20,000 word post on the awesomeness of that game, but nobody wants that, they want the tips, and here they are.

First up, we have San Francisco v Atlanta, a game which is quite intriguing for me. Let's look at the line. Depending on your place of choice, it ranges from 3.5 to 4.5. The question is: How high does the line have to be to consider taking Atlanta? Does one single point make a difference?

For me here, it does not. Quick tangent back to last week's pick (San Fran -3). I broke down each position, and San Francisco dominated each one except for the most crucial aspects: Quarterback and Wide Receiver. We knew this. The thing we didn't know - That Kaepernick would kill the Packers by rushing for the most yards ever by a QB. Conversely, Atlanta nearly choked away an impressive victory against Seattle, and still have nobody really believing in them. 

This is why I think San Francisco will win - Another week for Justin Smith to get healthy, Atlanta's rather bad defence, and the fact that the 49ers now get to play indoors after a long spell outdoors. The loss of Chris Clemons really hurt Seattle's defence, I'm confident that San Fran can put up a better fight. Although I think Atlanta has a very decent chance at proving everyone wrong, the pick has to be:

San Francisco (-3.5) over Atlanta

Now, for the game where hopefully I don't end up feeling miserable for weeks like I did last year. For those new to the NFL, the Ravens were screwed by the refs and general incompetency, missing an easy field goal at the end which would have put them in the Super Bowl instead of the Patriots. But enough angst, let's focus on this week's re-match.

The Ravens have had success against the Patriots in the past, such as the victory earlier this season (also thanks to a late Justin Tucker field goal). Put simply, they think, wait, they KNOW, that they can beat these guys.

Also on the Ravens' side: Gronk's injury hurts the offence, with Hernandez forced to do more blocking and a higher reliance on Deion Branch. Torrey Smith will be licking his lips to face the New England secondary, although the mid-season acquisition of Talib does mean they will be improved at stopping the long pass.

Really, this chance for revenge all comes down to Joe Flacco. Can he outplay Tom Brady again? I think it's going to be a close game, which is why nine points is far too much for me to turn down.

Baltimore (+9) over New England

So there's the picks, will Baltimore and San Francisco be knocked out in their respective championship games for the second year running? Or will it be a battle of the Harbaugh's in the Superb Bowl? Can Atlanta go all the way without anybody believing in them? I can't wait to find out.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Playoffs Playoffs Playoffs: The Tips Are In

The NFL playoffs are one of the greatest spectacles in world sport. I'm sure if you're reading this then you agree, and can't wait for this weekend's games. The only downside to the playoffs? Making plays on the lines. It is pretty damn difficult when you get to this stage, as almost every team is top quality, and you'll find some of the reasoning behind my picks get very nit-picky. 

However, last week, the two plays I pointed out came through, thanks to covers from Houston and Seattle, the two plays which I mentioned not being confident in did not, so hopefully you didn't back those ones. Unders went 4-0 last week too, though I would be slightly wary of backing them again after some potential adjusting.

Let's go in order for this week's lines, starting with the play I feel strongest about:

Seattle (+2.5) over Atlanta

I could provide cracking stats for either side proving whatever argument I wanted to make, but in the end it boils down to this: I think Seattle are a better football team than Atlanta. Here's some reasons why:

1. As mentioned last week, Seattle are the best team in football on Football Outsiders rankings. Where are Atlanta? 11th.

2. Seattle have some of the best safeties and corners in the league, which should help them negate the big play factor of Roddy White and Julio Jones.

3. Atlanta are by all measures one of the six worst 13-3 teams ever. Only two of those six teams won a playoff game.

4. Russell Wilson

Now, Atlanta do have homefield, they do have the benefit of rest and Seattle do have to travel. Yes, Seattle will miss Chris Clemons. In all honesty, I'm scared that nobody seems to like Atlanta (the first ever "Nobody Belives In Us" 1-seed") but Seattle are on a roll, they can legitimately claim to be the best side in football over the past 10 or so weeks, and I think they will beat Atlanta.

Baltimore (+10) over Denver

Dating back to 2004, every year there has been a big upset in this round. If you believe in trends like that, then you are either backing Baltimore, or Houston this week. I'm not so sure either team will win, but I do believe that Baltimore have the biggest chance to pull of an upset, and, 10 points??? In a playoff game? With Ray Lewis hyped up???? Denver are giving too many here.

Here's a legitimate scenario in which Baltimore can win the game:

Joe Flacco continues his great playoff play (Flacco is the only QB ever to win a playoff game in his first five seasons), and connects on a deep pass to Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin plays as well as he did last week, Ray Rice is Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce makes another play or two, Jim Caldwell actually realises he should run the ball, Dennis Pitta destroys Keith Brooking (Denver are 32nd against tight ends), Ray Lewis hypes the side up again, and Baltimore gets a long special teams play from their historically great unit.

Phew. It may seem a lot to ask for, but I think Baltimore are more likely to keep it close than get blown out, so taking the points it is.

New England (-9) over Houston

Last week I mentioned how average Cincinnati are. And I was thankfully right. Houston are just as mediocre. Matt Schaub is a league-average quarterback, with only one receiver to throw to. The Patriots are better against the run than they are against the pass, which matches up well with this Foster-dominated Houston line-up. The Pats get Gronk and Hernandez healthy and on the field together for one of the few times this season, and have shored up their secondary thanks to the input of former Buc Aqib Talib.

This game has a small chance of being this week's shocker game, but the Patriots just match up too well with this average Texans outfit, I'd need a few more points to even consider taking the Moo Cows here.

San Francisco versus Green Bay

The game of the round, and subsequently the hardest one to pick. On the surface, Kaepernick v Rodgers seems like a mismatch of epic proportions. But then you go deeper and it gets much harder to make a play. This is totally improvised, but lets break it down!

Quarterback: A no-doubt Hall of Famer, the best QB in the league, against a second-year pro who has started six games and may be overwhelmed by the occasion.

Huge Edge: Green Bay

Back-up Quarterback!: A 7 year pro who led the league in completion percentage and is arguably one of the best 15 QB's in the league, against a CFL player who has barely taken a snap. Green Bay fans are wincing right now at the mere possibility of Rodgers going down.

Huge Edge: San Francisco

Running Back: Despite the strange coming-out of DaJuan Harris last week against an extremely inconsistent Vikings D-Line, it's safe to say I'm not entirely convinced, especially not compared to Frank Gore.

Sizeable Edge: San Francisco

Wide Receivers: Another no contest. The Packers have possibly the best wide receiver quarter in the league, while the 49ers have a washed-up Randy Moss, a sneaky-good Michael Crabtree, and last year's playoff goat Kyle Williams.

Big Big Edge: Green Bay

Tight End: Yuck, let's just move on....

Edge: Nobody. Everybody drops.

Offensive Line: Green Bay have the potential to play well as a unit, but all too often there are just terrible performances when poor Rodgers gets sacked a dozen times and never has any time to throw. San Francisco's isn't great either, but they do have the bonus of Kaepernick's agility.

Edge: San Francisco

Defensive Line: The big X-Factor here is Justin Smith. If Justin Smith is fully healthy, or even partially healthy, the 49ers get a massive boost, his play-calling and superb rushing of the line will improve the play of every team-mate, especially Aldon Smith who is far less effective without his namesake. Green Bay are good, but not this good.

Edge: San Francisco

Secondary: San Francisco's secondary is slightly overrated, but still good, this match-up is intriguing as the 49ers will have to do a lot more defending of the deep pass than the likes of Woodson and Jennings will have to.

Slight Edge: San Francisco

Home Field Advantage Edge: San Francisco

Past History Edge: San Francisco won this match-up in Week 1, 30-22, although that was with Alex Smith under centre.

The Pick: San Francisco (-2.5) over Green Bay

From that break down, it's clear that San Francisco have the edge in many categories. However, will the big edge at quarterback and wide receiver be enough to negate all these? I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Disagree with any of the picks? Think I'm wrong with the San Fran tip? Leave a comment below, or tweet me @NiallGunner, apart from that, enjoy the packed weekend of NFL, and hopefully we are back late next week with good news on the golf front. 

Until then.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Golf Tips - We're Back!

Welcome to what will hopefully become a weekly thing on From The Carpark, golf tipping! Thankfully, it won't just be me making the tips, Football 365 legend 'Skinny Dynamite' will be laying down his tips, he has a great track record of success and I'm sure all the F365's reading are pleased to have him back tipping to start the new golfing season.

I will endeavour to make selections too, but keep in mind that unlike SD, I don't scour tipping sites, I don't know which golfers love Bermuda Greens, and I end up just tipping guys who I like or think provide value.

The first tournament of the season is often hard to predict, with seasonal trends unable to be scouted (getting excuses in early here), but it is certainly fun to try. First up, the Sony Open, in which two (TWO!) Kiwis will be involved after making it through qualifying.

SD's tips:

Luke List $250
Chris Stroud $200
Jerry Kelly $100

1/2 ew

Jimmy Walker $75
Matt Every $60
Brian Gay $50
Ryan Palmer $50
John Huh $50

All 1 ew

SD: Course form is the main factor for the top plays this week - four of my top five have had strong results here and Huh has the game to match the course.

I was tempted by Petterson and Gainey again, but the Swede was a little too short despite fine previous tourneys and I have concerns about all those backing up from the extended tourney with its late finish.

My tips are:

Chris Stroud $200
Josh Teater $125 

1/2 ew




Charlie Wi $100
Kyle Stanley $80
Tommy Gainey $70
Matt Every $60

1 ew

I couldn't resist taking Chris Stroud also at those odds (this might become a trend, fair warning). Teater also I think is too long, he played well to end the season and has done well here before too. Most bookmakers had Stanley at $80, which I was going to back until I saw one offering him at $150. Jump on him if you can find him at that price, but since there could be a catch I shall take him at the most available price. SD makes a good point on Gainey but I shall pretend I never saw that and take him anyway. We agree on Every being good value, especially when some places have him at 33's.


Finally, there's also a rather small, exclusive tournament going on in South Africa, the Volvo Championship. Catering only for winners on the Eurpopean Tour last season, this tournament is being played on a third course in three years, so don't do what I did and go back looking at past results, you're likely to be wasting your time.

SD's tips:

Michael Hoey $150
Robert Rock $50
Richie Ramsay $50
Thorbjorn Olesen $25
Matteo Mannesero $20

All 1 ew

SD: This quintet offers value in a small field with no cut - better than the likes of Louis, Ernie, Grace etc who are all too short.

As for me, I like:

Marcel Siem $70
Rafael Cabrera-Bello $60
Jaime Donaldson $28

All 1 ew

For me here, this tournament is a tough one - how motivated will the players be? How much do you read into last season's form? Considering that's basically all we have to go off, I like Siem, who ended last year very strongly, Cabrera-Bello (another personal favourite), and Donaldson, who is better than most of the others around the 30 mark.

So, enjoy the golf weekend, hopefully we will hit on someone, somewhere, back tomorrow with my NFL tips for this fantastic playoff weekend.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Week 1 Playoffs: Looking for Value

It's just about time for one of the best months in sport, playoff football! 

If you are one of the people who find regular season tipping hard, then you have another thing coming with the playoff lines. It's often very hard to find value in them, but due to popular demand (two people), I've decided to post some plays anyway. Note that out of the four teams on the road, two of the quarterbacks are rookies, with the other two being unconvincing sophomores, and with every team having flaws it will sure be an exciting playoffs.

Anyway, enough ramble, here are the two plays I like this week:

Houston (-4.5) over Cincinnati

The Bengals are just so average. Andy Dalton and the Law Firm (Ben Jarvus Green Ellis) are hardly inspiring, while star receiver AJ Green is only as good as Dalton. Although the Bengals defence is good, its hardly great. The Texans have been flailing of late but know how to win in the playoffs, even winning this corresponding fixture last year with the awful TJ Yates under centre. I think Cincy are out of the playoffs by tomorrow morning.

Seattle (-3) over Washington

The Seahawks have been a great, great team in the second half of the year, being in the top 4 in defence, offence and special teams (per Football Outsiders' DVOA.) Washington haven't beaten many good teams, with their best wins coming over fraudulent Giants and Ravens sides. Seattle are indeed worse on the road than they are at home, but I like them to dispose of Washington here.

Here are the other two games, I'm not nearly as confident about these selections but sometimes they can be the ones which come through for you, so....

Indianapolis (+7) over Baltimore

Indy are massively overrated, benefiting from the easiest schedule in the league. The have a terrible defence, and are possibly the worst 10-win team ever. Why am I picking them then? Chuckstrong! There are no stats for motivation, and this has gone long past the point of making sense.

I'm still confident that my Ravens can pull this game out but I think it will be close, and potentially very high-scoring.

Minnesota (+7.5) over Green Bay

I think Green Bay will probably be too strong and I did consider taking them here, but Minnesota have pushed Green Bay hard twice, beating them last week of course, I think seven and a half is probably too much, especially with the way Peterson is playing (Did I mention he should be MVP?). Ponder will need to play at the level he did last week, so this is definitely a risky play.

There we go, that ends a massive week here on From The Carpark, I thank every one of you who reads, I very much appreciate it, good luck on the plays this weekend!


Friday, 4 January 2013

Back-up QB Rankings: Playoff Teams (Who Should Be Scared?)


Quarterbacks, we are told, are the most important players in any sport. It’s hard to argue with. Every year, the truly elite quarterbacks go deep into the playoffs, whether it be Rodgers, Brady, or Manning. Only a historically terrible defence can stop an elite QB taking his team far (Drew Brees).

That’s why there’s nothing feared more than a back-up quarterback. A quarterback injury can end your Super Bowl hopes in a flash (Houston/Chicago 2012) and send you tumbling towards the draft lottery. Which playoff teams have the most cause for concern? Here are the official back-up QB rankings, starting with the QB’s whose entrance will give fans zero hope of victory:

Division 1: “We have no hope”

12th: Luke McCown (Atlanta)

Luke is the older brother of equally awful Josh.  With more interceptions than touchdowns in his career (14 to 9), and a QB Rating of 68.5, he is the quintessential below-average back-up. Believe it or not, he was once a week one starter, unsurprisingly for Jacksonville, where he put up a staggeringly bad 1.8 QB rating.

11th: TJ Yates (Houston)

Yates is still Houston’s back-up, for some reason over John Beck – who has at least shown flashes of competence. People will look back at Yates and laugh that he was the fifth rookie to ever win a playoff game. Despite his struggles, Matt Schaub is under no pressure whatsoever.

Fan Fear Factor: Massive. Matt Ryan may have a perceived playoff hill to get over, but if McCown entered the game that hill would become a mountain to climb. Houston would have to hold their opponents to single digits whilst giving Arian Foster 50 carries to hold out hope of victory.

Division 2: “I am only experienced at holding clipboards”

10th: Graham Harrell (Green Bay)

Harrell has only got in the game to kneel in his career so far, including his first career play, in which he botched the handoff, tripping on his centre and losing a fumble. His old man’s name also gives me very little confidence, as well as the fact he played for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

9th: Ryan Mallett (New England)

You have to wonder whether Mallett really is the succession plan for when Tom Brady eventually retires, and if so why he hasn’t got more snaps in the many Patriot blowouts. His stats really doesn’t give any indication of a future in this league, with Mallett having 17 yards and a (admittedly unlucky) interception in his NFL career.

8th: Brock Osweiler (Denver)

Remember him? He was the guy who caused panic amongst Broncos fans by warming up for a potential Hail Mary. Thankfully he is ahead of Caleb Hanie on the depth chart, who single-handedly destroyed the Bears season last year. This year, Lovie Smith got the blame. Enjoy 2014 Bears fans. Anyway, Oswelier threw four passes last week, completing two of them in his first NFL appearance.

Fan Fear Factor: Off the charts, if only because an entry by one of these three means that one of the league’s best three quarterbacks has gone down injured. The significant downgrade would likely kill each of these teams hopes, especially the can’t-block Packers and the can’t-defend Patriots.

Division 3: “Well, he’s not terrible….”

7th: Drew Stanton (Indianapolis)

Which team did Stanton make his debut start for? That’s right, Jacksonville again! The Jags are just giving chances to mediocre quarterbacks left, right and centre. After a rough start to his career, Stanton put up some good performances for the Lions in 2010, and is semi-competent, a huge upgrade over the Curtis Painter tank-fest last season.

6th: Bruce Gradkowski (Cincinnati)

Gradkowski is a solid back-up quarterback, so aptly he sits right in the middle of this ranking. His career stats are predictably average reading, with 19 touchdowns to 20 interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 67.2. However, he has recorded the most ‘Come from behind” touchdowns in a fourth quarter when playing for Oakland, so there is a glimmer of hope for the Bengals in the event of an injury.

5th: Tyrod Taylor (Baltimore)

Taylor and Gradkowski faced off for a quarter last week in a game nobody wanted to win, which doesn’t say much about the talent levels of either. However, Taylor is a talented rusher, and if Flacco went down this aspect of his game could open up more space for Ray Rice. This gives him the nod over the immobile Gradkowski who is merely just a lesser version of Dalton.
Fan Fear Factor: Significant. While Luck, Dalton, and Flacco all have their faults, they are all significantly better than their average back-ups. Colts fans in particular will have the biggest fears, with Stanton by far the most inexperienced, while Ravens fans should be frightened if Joe “I’m good in the playoffs!” Flacco goes down hurt.

Division 4: “He’s had good games in the past!”

4th: Kirk Cousins (Washington)

Cousins has been fairly impressive in the games he’s filled in for injuries to RG3, and with RG3 not at 100% he may be required in the playoffs. There’s been big trade talk going around regarding Cousins, but with RG3’s health always a concern it’s likely that Washington keep him on their books for the next few years.

3rd: Matt Flynn (Seattle)

I’ve always loved Russell Wilson’s potential, but I was firmly in the “Start Flynn” camp. After a rough beginning, starting Wilson has clearly worked out for Pete Carroll, and Flynn could be on the trading block to quarterback-desperate teams such as Arizona and Kansas City. That’s basically down to one meaningless Week 17 game, in which he broke several records by throwing for 480 yards and six touchdowns, earning him a $19 million dollar contract. Still, a career QB rating of 92.8 with a TD to Int ratio of 9:5 is certainly good enough to be a starting QB in this league.

Fan Fear Factor: Potentially not much. While it would be scary having an extremely inexperienced QB going on the road in a playoff match, this will also be their starters’ first taste of playoff action. Flynn at least has had good games in this league before, unlike so many of the other back-ups already mentioned, while Cousins has come through in close situations this year, and although losing RG3 would be a huge blow for the Redskins, their fans would still have confidence in Cousins.

Division 5: “I’m telling you, he’s better than our starter!”

2nd: Joe Webb (Minnesota)

The king of covers, Joe Webb is an electric player who really deserves more of a shot in this league. While Christian Ponder came through with a superb performance against Green Bay last week, he has also had several terrible games where Webb would have been a perfect option.  Here’s what Webb can do – in one quarter he set the Vikings record for most QB rushing yards (105). Two weeks later, Webb led the Vikings to another victory, putting up a perfect QB rating while scoring three touchdowns. Webb’s rushing could even help Adrian Peterson more, if that were possible. Of course, Webb has not played a snap this entire year, despite Ponder’s stinkbomb performances.

1st: Alex Smith (San Francisco)

Smith was one of the few quarterbacks this year dropped due to injury, and can be considered very unlucky to lose his job to the exciting Colin Kaepernick after a start to the season which included Smith being third in QB rating (104.1), and first in completion percentage (70%), whilst compiling a 19-5-1 record under coach Jim Harbaugh.  In many ways Smith and Kaepernick are complete opposites of one another, with Smith being reliable and consistent, but Kaepernick mixing inconsistency with potential game-changing skills.

Fan Fear Factor: Nil. With Christian Ponder being incredibly erratic, it is entirely possible that halfway through the first playoff game Vikings fans will be longing for the entry of Webb, while Smith has been here before, winning a shootout over the Saints in last year’s playoffs where he silenced all of his critics.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

NFL Predictions - Looking Back

Earlier in the year, before this blog was created, I laid out some predictions for the upcoming 2012/2013 NFL Season on rankopedia.com. Out of interest, and potential bragging rights, I felt I should run them back and see how I went, as well as seeing any trends for the playoffs and season ahead.

1: The 49ers would not win 10 games, and would be at risk of losing the division.

Close but no cigar. Seattle did push them close as expected, but the 49ers just got over the line in the final game of the season, with a little help from Colin Kaepernick. 

2: The NFC would be much stronger than the AFC in terms of the teams involved in the playoff races.

I think I nailed this one, but it can still be argued. I don't think the Colts and Bengals are particularly good, with both receiving easy schedules, while my Ravens fell apart but still made the playoffs (unlike their NFC counterparts - the Bears). Whilst the two Super Bowl favourites reside in the AFC, the NFC is a much stronger conference.

3: The Vikings and the Bucs would win more than 6 games.

The Bucs made things difficult, waiting until the last game of the season to finally get over the line, but the Vikings were easy money, although even I didn't expect a playoff berth. If you told me they would start a terrible Ponder for the whole year, I might have stayed away from this prediction, but Adrian Peterson's MVP-deserving campaign pushed them over and above all pre-season estimates.

4: The Lions' upward climb would not continue, and they would fall back this year.

Are Detroit the best 4-11 team of all-time, or the worst? I really didn't expect this level of incompetency from Detroit, but no team has improved their record for four straight years, and that was the basis of this prediction. Expect a semi-bounce back next season.

5: Nothing would have surprised me in the AFC West.

This was meant to be a "anything could happen" statement but it turns out nothing did surprise me, Peyton is great, the Raiders and Chiefs are terrible, the Chargers almost as bad, life goes on as normal.

6: The NFC North and NFC East would both have teams with records greater than 8-8 missing out on the playoffs.

The NFC North comes through, with the Bears missing the playoffs at 10-6. To be honest, I thought it would be the Lions finishing around 8-8 or 9-7 yet missing the playoffs, but the prediction stands! As for the NFC East, the Giants score a last-week victory to end 9-7 and give me 2-2 on this prediction.


7: Nobody would come close to the Patriots in the AFC East, the other 3 teams would struggle to finish over .500

A walk in the park. This prediction can be run this back next year too, and basically any year until Tom Brady retires. A real monopoly of a division.

And here were my over/unders for the year:

Chicago over 8.5 (win, ended 10-6)
Dallas over 8.5 (loss, ended 8-8)
Seattle over 7 (win, ended 11-5)   
Philly under 10 (win, ended 4-12)
New Orleans under 10 (win, ended 7-9)
Washington over 6.5 (win, ended 10-6)
Kansas City under 7.5 (win, ended 2-14)

So, all in all, a pretty good NFL tipping season, hopefully it shall continue into the playoffs and seasons to come.

Back tomorrow with more NFL talk.